GREEN BAY, Wis (WBAY) - Thousands of hunters across Wisconsin are now having the deer they harvested during the 9-day gun deer season tested for Chronic Wasting Disease.
That includes a growing number of hunters in Northeast Wisconsin.
Since the first confirmed case in Southwestern Wisconsin in 2001, CWD has spread in the wild to 25 Wisconsin counties.
"In Northeast Wisconsin at this point we haven't had the disease found in the wild, but we know it's out there on the perimeter," says DNR Regional Wildlife Biologist Jeff Pritzl, "and for the interests of hunters just knowing, and knowing what we can do in the future as far as managing the disease, the more information the better."
Aside from specific areas near game farms in Northeast Wisconsin where captive deer have tested positive for CWD, the region as a whole is not a targeted area for testing.
But over the past week, Pritzl says more than local 100 hunters have dropped off a deer head at this kiosk outside the DNR Service Center in Howard for testing, twice as many as last year.
"In just hunters self selecting and wanting it sampled regardless, we're seeing a considerable increase in participation, which is a good thing," says Pritzl.
According to Pritzl, the state should have no problem reaching its goal of 15,000 statewide samples.
The sampling process involves DNR staff removing lymph nodes and sending them to the state's processing center in Black Earth, a village just outside Madison.
From there, the samples are prepared and submitted to the National Wildlife Health Lab in the capital.
"The turnaround for hunters getting notified so they can find out if that venison is negative or not is still about a two week turnaround, but they're already starting to get some samples replied back from opening weekend," says Pritzl.